Friday, April 01, 2016

Match Day 4: Less Than Full Strength For Two Rivals

Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake have developed a less than friendly rivalry since Sporting rebranded from heated preseason games to MLS Cup finals the teams have had their fair share of intense battles. Tomorrow at Sporting Park the two teams will meet for the first time in the 2016 season. Unfortunately the match up tomorrow will be lacking a bit in the way of "star power" as both teams will be missing some of their regular starters either through suspension or through injury.

Of the two teams the one hit the hardest is Real Salt Lake. The visitors tomorrow at Children's Mercy Park are hit so hard by injuries and suspensions that they're the first team to take advantage of MLS's USL hardship call up, calling in a pair of players from the Real Monarchs for the game. RSL will be without three players due to suspension, Kyle Beckerman and Jamison Olave picked up red cards in their last game against the Portland Timbers. After the game Burrito Martinez was suspended by the disciplinary committee, bringing the total to three. They have also been hit hard by the injury bug with Javier Morales suffering a broken rib, Yura Movsisyan having an abductor strain, and a number of other injuries. With all the injuries it'll be a very short handed RSL showing up at CMP tomorrow.

Kansas City won't have their best available either unfortunately either. Roger Espinoza picked up red card in KC's win over Toronto that will keep him out of tomorrow's game. KC is also dealing with the injury bug too, captain Matt Besler is out for tomorrow's game after he picked up a concussion while on US men's national team duty. Along with Besler the club is still going to be without the likes of Paulo Nagamura, the logical replacement for Espinoza, and Justin Mapp, who is still suffering from turf toe. The good news for Sporting KC is that Benny Feilhaber looks set to make his debut for the club in 2016 after missing the first three games with an abductor strain. It also looks like young designated player Diego Rubio could make the game day roster for the first time for the club as well.

Davis - Dwyer - Zusi
Quintilla - Feilhaber
Dia - Ellis - Coelho - Myers

Number to Remember - 0 - That's the number of league goals that Salt Lake has scored in Kansas City since the opening of Children's Mercy Park. They have scored a couple goals in other competitions, one in MLS Cup and one in last year's US Open Cup. Zero is also the number of both teams have scored in their prior two league meetings at CMP. The last two games have seen Salt Lake sit deep and bunker in against Sporting KC at CMP, a strategy that Kansas City has struggled to break down in the past.

Key Match Up - Amadou Dia vs Joao Plata - Assuming that Plata lines up on RSL's right, it'll probably be the biggest challenge that second year man Amadou Dia has faced all season. Plata, the MLS Player of the Month for March is tied for second in the league in scoring with three goals through the first three games of the season and is a handful to handle. With Morales likely out for RSL tomorrow much more of the playmaking role will fall on Plata which means that Dia is going to be in for a busy night and will need assistance from his left sided centerback, whether that be Nuno Coelho sliding over or Kevin Ellis jumping right into Besler's spot.

PREDICTION - With RSL in the position that it's in with player availability the logical expectation from them would be to come in, sit back and try to hit on the counter or at worst get another 0-0 draw out of their trip. It wouldn't be the first time that RSL has come into Kansas City and played like this. If KC can get an early goal tomorrow things could get out of hand for an undermanned RSL side. But the longer that it remains scoreless or if they allow Nick Rimando to get into a groove tomorrow and it could be a very long night for Kansas City. Unfortunately tomorrow I lean towards the later happening, where KC will go at RSL again and again, but Rimando in RSL's net will keep KC out. While I think KC has a good chance at going to 4-0 on the season, breaking down a compact RSL team isn't going to be easy for them.

SKC - 0
RSL - 0

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